The first band I can ever remember hearing was the Smiths. All day long my dad would blare out The Queen is Dead on our newfangled tape player and stuff by some guy called Morrissey - who it took me 'til I was about 10 to realize was the same guy singing in the Smiths…I wasn't the brightest kid. Anyways, once I hit teenagerdom I got into Green Day and, well, the rest is history. Three years ago I went to University and met all these weirdoes wearing Smiths t-shirts and laughed at how sad they were - "that's the music my dad likes…ewww" was my reaction. My naiveté was somewhat ridiculed. So, in an effort to understand why these guys were so obsessed I went to my old man's, dug out the old cassettes and…well, I was hooked. I guess the music you're raised on does stick with you. Although, if I ever start listening to Simply Red (mum's favourite), I want someone to shoot me.
Now, all the bands who are getting popular today in the 'emo' scene are citing The Smiths as a huge influence and it's considered 'cool' to like them (and the Cure). I found this out to my cost when I went to see Brand New wearing my "Strangeways Here we Come " t-shirt and was accosted for being a 'posing bastard.' Loads of kids are now pretending to like these old 80s bands because all their idols pretend to like them too and…fuck it, I can't be bothered ranting about kids in Simple Plan beanies and Joy Division t-shirts. Anyways, a bunch of bands have come together to cover their favourite Smiths songs for all the other posing bastards like me who like Morrissey, Marr et al. OK, I'm going to say it before anyone else does - YES THIS WAS A POINTLESS IDEA - but it's been done now and there's nothing we can do to change it. The main question is…is it any good?
Hundred Reasons, the most established (this side of the Atlantic, anyway) band here absolutely murder "How Soon Is Now?," which has already been covered God knows how many times by people as varied as Quicksand to Russian lesbo-pop tarts T.A.T.U. It is the most half-arsed, lazy cover I've heard of any song. Ever. The only reason it's on the comp I would imagine is for their 'name value' because there really is no other reason for it to appear anywhere other than as a B-side.
Cursive offer a glimmer of hope with their sprightly take of "Frankly Mr. Shankly," which is pretty faithful to the original but different enough to warrant existence. The same can't be said for Garrison's "Panic," Read Yellow's truly awful version of "Bigmouth Strikes Again" or Lomax's butchering of "Handsome Devil" into an almost unrecognizable wall of noise. Walter Schreifels (here under the name Walter Walter) of Rival Schools and Quicksand fame does a fairly pleasant run through of "Ask" but sticks far too closely to the original for my liking, unlike his aforementioned version of "How Soon Is Now?," which turned the song into an emo anthem (oxymoron?). thisGIRL make "Shoplifters of the World Unite" their own, retaining the catchiness of the original but adding heavier guitars and shouty bits. It's still not better than the original but an A for effort at least.
Now, my absolute favourite Smiths song is "There is A Light That Never Goes Out" which, to my initial horror, is covered on the album and is absolutely nothing like the original song. Brit hopefuls My Awesome Compilation have changed the arrangement of the song to a ridiculous degree and I sat and shouted at my stereo, wishing I had heard this CD before I saw them support MC Lars so I could kick their ass. Then, after a few more listens I actually grew to like the track - I don't prefer it to the original but it certainly doesn't deserve the derision I initially gave it.
The only track here that I can honestly say improves on the original is by The Beautiful Mistake. Their cover of "Cemetery Gates" retains the playfulness of the original but is altogether more affecting without Morrissey's smugness shining through like a quaffed beacon. I'd love to say that this song alone makes it worth purchasing but it doesn't. Download it - it's cheaper. Or, be like me and burn the CD then take it back to the record store like a true cheap-ass student.